Meyers Leonard limited as he tries to play through hip and back pain

Meyers Leonard limited as he tries to play through hip and back pain

Meyers Leonard’s right hip has been in so much pain recently he said he hasn’t been able to sleep at night. The hip pain, compounded with two herniated discs in his back, has left the Trail Blazers big man playing on virtually one leg for the past week and a half, he says.

“It’s a very bizarre feeling to be playing the highest level of basketball while feeling like I have one leg,’’ Leonard said Wednesday. “It’s frustrating to say the least.’’

Leonard had an MRI on the hip on Monday, which revealed some damage, but he wished to keep the issue private.

Leonard said he first felt the hip pain in Phoenix last week, and thought it was just the result of playing in a back-to-back. However, as the trip progressed, he was in nightly pain, so much so that he couldn’t sleep.

He said the combination of herniated L4 and L5 discs and the hip issue have rendered his right leg powerless. He knew it was a problem in New Orleans when he received an inside pass from Al-Farouq Aminu and was blocked as he went to dunk, unable to get his normal elevation.

Since that New Orleans game, Leonard has played seven minutes, three minutes, six minutes and seven minutes. In the 15 games prior, he was averaging 19 minutes a game while playing perhaps his best basketball of the season, with averages of 6.6 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 36.6 percent from three-point range.

“I can’t really explode to get rebounds, really,’’ Leonard said. “I’m just trying to hide it, trying my best not to let it show.’’

Against Atlanta, Leonard remembers coach Terry Stotts approaching him and asking him if he could give him three good minutes in the fourth quarter. He did – playing three minutes and hitting 1-of-2 shots while adding a rebound.

“I’m just trying to give some semi-quality minutes,’’ Leonard said. “If you watch the last couple of games it’s only been me trying to get Dame and CJ open on ball screens, get Allen open on pin downs, and get in the way on box outs … and shoot when I’m open. I’m just trying my best not to let it show.’’

Leonard, however, can be seen dragging his right leg in the limited time he has seen recently, in what he says is an effort to become tougher mentally. He said in Detroit last month he was bumped on the right hip during a pregame warmup by assistant Jim Moran and it felt like he had “been shot by a shotgun.”

He took anti-inflammatories and played 18 minutes in that game.

“I’ve just tried to hide it. I’ve got to be tougher about the situation, become tougher mentally.’’ Leonard said. “But it’s real odd to try and play on one leg.’’

Leonard said he has remained on anti-inflammatories and is under a strict rehabilitation and weight lifting regiment to build strength back in his right leg.

“Basically, they say hopefully it will die down in seven to 10 days,’’ Leonard said. “And it has gotten better. On our last trip, in Atlanta, I couldn’t sleep it was so painful. But it has died down with the medication.’’

Any marked improvement doesn’t appear imminent. On Wednesday, Leonard said he attempted a round of three-pointers during practice.

“I couldn’t get any lift off the floor,’’ he said. “It’s just odd, awkward feeling.’’

Leonard's injury comes at a time when the Blazers' already have center Ed Davis out for the season after undergoing left shoulder surgery on March 7. With Leonard's limited availability, Noah Vonleh on Tuesday played extended minutes at backup center behind starter Jusuf Nurkic. 

Next up: New York at Blazers, 7 p.m. Thursday (KGW)

Unable to trade, Blazers bet on future with Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent

Unable to trade, Blazers bet on future with Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent

Unable to make a trade, Neil Olshey on Thursday decided the Trail Blazers’ best path was to gamble.

So the Blazers’ president of basketball operations took a chance in the first round, drafting guard Anfernee Simons, who earlier this month turned 19. Simons bypassed college last season and trained at the renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

For Blazers’ fans who were hoping for a trade to land a proven veteran, or at least prospect who has a proven track record, the selection of Simons could be viewed as risky.

And Olshey wouldn’t dispute that.

“But it’s not our job to play it safe,’’ Olshey said. “Our job is to go get the guy who has the talent, that if he pans out, you’re not going to get as a free agent, and that nobody is going to trade him to you. That’s what we are trying to find.’’

Olshey thinks he might have that in Simons, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard who is slight of build but heavy in potential.

“He’s really gifted,’’ Olshey said. “We felt like he was the most talented guy (left) on the board. He has a really bright future … When the physical growth catches up to his natural, God-given ability, he’s going to be a really good player.’’

Later, in the second round, the Blazers traded with Sacramento to acquire Gary Trent Jr. with the 37th overall pick. Trent, another 19-year-old who just finished his freshman season at Duke, is a wing who is expected to have more of a chance to play next season.

“We are all looking for shooting and this is a guy we think can step in right away and fill a void,’’ Olshey said. “How much or how little is up to (coach) Terry (Stotts). But I don’t think we are going to need to be as patient with Gary.’’

Since the Blazers were swept in the playoffs, Olshey has been transparent about seeking veterans to add to one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. And on Thursday, he directly said the Blazers are looking for wings. 

Ideally, Olshey said he would have liked to execute a trade using the team’s $12.9 traded-player-exception from last July’s move of Allen Crabbe, but the rest of the league was more focused on the draft, and not player movement.  

“We were trying to look for teams where trading 24 could get us an impact rotation guy into the trade exception,’’ Olshey said. “But tonight wasn’t about existing players (for other teams); it was about the draft. 

“We were aggressive leading up to the draft – but we know it was to be a specific fit, a specific guy in terms of skill set. And a guy we believe could make an impact,’’ Olshey said. “Tonight wasn’t the night to do that.’’

So, the Blazers looked ahead, hoping that a player most had targeted in the second round because of his youth and inexperience on the big stage, will one day develop into a star.

“At that point in the draft, we are looking for the guy with the highest ceiling that we could possibly find,’’ Olshey said. “He’s really gifted.’’

Olshey said Simons will likely be an off-the-ball guard, but could someday develop into a point. The Blazers have established guards in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but have question marks behind them, as Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton are free agents and Wade Baldwin is working on a partially guaranteed contract. 

“But this was not a need pick, this was a pick as far as who had the highest ceiling,’’ Olshey said. “There are things he can do that can’t be replicated by a lot of guys in this draft. He just needs to get physically strong enough to do it against NBA competition and do it more consistently.’’

Trent, meanwhile, is more ready and Olshey said he hopes for him to contribute at some level next season. Trent was a McDonald’s All-American and has played for various Team USA teams.

“He’s been on track for this his whole life,’’ Olshey said.

Trent is 6-foot-6 and Olshey said he envisions him as a something between a shooting guard and small forward – needing to improve his quickness to guard elite shooting guards and “having to play up” to guard a small forward.

Many of the mock drafts had Trent being a mid-to-late first round pick. That he lasted to the 37th pick will stick with him.

“Chip on my shoulder? It’s more than that,’’ Trent said. “Going in the second round … I believe I was a first rounder. I’m going to have to come in and work and prove I belong, prove I can stay in this league and prove that I’m better than a second round pick. I’m up for that challenge.’’

Trent’s father played for the Blazers from 1995-1998, a coincidence not lost on the younger Trent.

“It’s crazy. That can’t be nothing but God’s work,’’ Trent said. “To put me in the same place that my dad played – it’s a surreal feeling. It’s unexplainable. Crazy to think about.’’ 

Trail Blazers keep it simple with Simons -- but why?

Trail Blazers keep it simple with Simons -- but why?

When I heard the Trail Blazers had selected Anfernee Simons with the No. 24 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night my first thought was that they turned this draft over to Paul Allen.

The Trail Blazer owner loves the draft, evaluating the prospects and enjoys projecting young players into the league.

And when it comes to young players, it’s simple … Simons. The most inexperienced player available – he spurned college for the IMG Academy – was the one that Portland chose. If you enjoy watching player development for a few years, this, by all accounts, is your man.

But this is a team that vowed it was in the hunt for older and more experienced players who could help this group navigate through the first round of the playoffs, right?

Well, no. Not with the draft. That stuff will have to come later on. Most scouting reports on Simons say he could someday turn out to be a very good player – but that day is not anytime soon. Perhaps two years away, in fact.

This is obviously not someone who fits the Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum time line. He’s not going to provide immediate help -- unless Portland knows something about him that other teams don’t.

Draft choices often come with questions and Simons comes with the shortest one of all:

Why?

"He's got a really bright future. He works. He can dribble, he can pass, he can shoot, he's a high-level athlete, we know he's going to work," said Blazer president, basketball operations Neil Olshey. "His skillset translates and when the physical growth catches up to his natural God-given ability, he's going to be a really good player."

And when you are drafting 24th, it's sometimes best to take a chance on a player with a promising future rather than a mediocre present.

Blazers fans aren’t sure about Simons, but excited about Trent Jr.

Blazers fans aren’t sure about Simons, but excited about Trent Jr.

One of the best parts about the modern NBA draft is that NBA fans all around the world react to their teams selections instantly on Twitter and Facebook.

When the Portland Trail Blazers selected Anfernee Simons out of IMG with its No. 24 pick, Blazer fans were quick to react on social media.

Initially, there were mixed reviews on Simons.

Portland’s night wasn’t done after using its No. 24 pick. The Blazers made a trade with Sacramento in which the Blazers sent two future second-round picks for Gary Trent Jr. a 6'6'' guard out of Duke.

Once, the trade news broke, Rip City showed its love for Trent Jr.

 

Quick links for more on Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons:

Blazers make draft night trade for Gary Trent Jr.

Blazers Empire: Gary Trent Jr. now a Trail Blazer

Draft Profile: Gary Trent Jr. (6'6" Guard, Duke) 

Here is what we know about the Blazers first-round draft pick

Trail Blazers go young, select Anfernee Simons with 24th overall pick 

Blazers have the luxury to develop Simons 

Blazers trade picks for Gary Trent Jr.

Blazers trade picks for Gary Trent Jr.

The Trail Blazers Draft night might not be over:

Gary Trent Jr. is a 6'6'' guard out of Duke. Read his DRAFT PROFILE

Just after 9:30pm Thursday night, owner Paul Allen tweeted about the trade

The Trail Blazers spent the #24 pick on teenager Anferee Simons from IMG Academy earlier in the evening.

Trail Blazers go young, select Anfernee Simons with 24th overall pick

Trail Blazers go young, select Anfernee Simons with 24th overall pick

One of the NBA's youngest rosters became even younger on Thursday.

The Trail Blazers drafted 19-year-old guard Anfernee Simons with the 24th overall pick on Thursday, a move that perhaps signaled earlier in the week when the Blazers flew him into Portland for a second workout. 

Simons, who last season attended the renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., instead of  Louisville, is a 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard who is known for his shooting. 

Simons, who turned 19 on June 8, was taken over French guard Elie Okobo, who impressed with his shooting at his Blazers workout, and wings Khyri Thomas, Keita Bates-Diop, Jacob Evans and Dzanan Musa. 

Depth at guard was among the Blazers’ needs entering the draft. After starters Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Blazers have Wade Baldwin, and soon-to-be free agents Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton. 

The biggest question mark about Simons is his build. He is slight and in his second workout in Portland he was backed down by bigger, older guards. But Simons said he thinks he can contribute right away with his scoring. Besides guard depth, the Blazers also need shooting, and Simons is regarded as a good shooter. He made 45 percent of his three-pointers while playing for IMG Academy. 

He was originally slated to attend Louisville, but withdrew in September of 2017 after then-coach Rick Pitino was placed on administrative leave. 

He first worked out for the Blazers on June 4, then again on Tuesday. He was originally scheduled to workout for Memphis on Tuesday, but the Blazers made a late call and expressed interest. Memphis owned the 32ndpick, and the chance to workout for a first-round team swayed Simons. 

The Blazers entered the draft with the NBA's second youngest roster. 

 

2018 NBA Draft News and Updates

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USA Today

2018 NBA Draft News and Updates

The 2018 NBA Draft is here. Who will go number one? What will the Blazers do at 24? We will update you with all the latest information here, and be sure to follow us on Twitter for all the latest from the Trail Blazers practice facility. 

First Round

1. Phoenix - Deandre Ayton, 7'1", 250lb Center, Arizona


2. Sacramento - Marvin Bagley III, 6'11", 234lb Forward, Duke


3. Atlanta (Traded to Dallas) - Luka Doncic, 6'7", 218lb Guard/Forward, Real Madrid (Spain)


4. Memphis - Jaren Jackson Jr, 6'11", 242 lb Forward, Michigan State 


5. Dallas (Traded to Atlanta) - Trae Young, 6'2", 180lb Guard, Oklahoma


6. Orlando - Mohamed Bamba, 6'11", 225 Center, Texas


7. Chicago - Wendell Carter Jr, 6'10", 259 lb Forward, Duke 


8. Cleveland  (from Brooklyn via Boston) - Collin Sexton, 6'3", 190lb Guard, Alabama


9. New York - Kevin Knox, 6'9", 215lb Forward, Kentucky 


10. Philadelphia (from Los Angeles Lakers via Phoenix, the pick was later traded to the Suns) - Mikal Bridges, 6'7", 210lb Guard, Villanova 


11. Charlotte (Traded to the Clippers) - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 6'6", 180lb Guard, Kentucky

Shai Gilgeous Alexander: athletic runs in his blood 


12. LA Clippers (from Detroit, traded to Charlotte) - Miles Bridges, 6'7", 225lbs Guard/Forward, Michigan State

Miles Bridges compared to former Blazer Jerome Kersey 


13. LA Clippers - Jerome Robinson, 6'6", 191lb Guard, Boston College 

BC's Jerome Robinson

14. Denver - Michael Porter Jr, 6'10", 215lb Forward, Missouri


15. Washington - Troy Brown, 6'7", 235lb Forward, Oregon

- Draft Profile - Troy Brown (6'7" F, Oregon)

- Empire - Oregon's Troy Brown

16. Phoenix (from Miami, traded to the 76ers) - Zhaire Smith, 6'5", 195lb Guard, Texas Tech

- Draft Profile - Zhaire Smith: a defensive minded guard 


17. Milwaukee - Donte DiVincenzo, 6'5", 205lb Guard, Villanova

- Draft Profile - Donte DiVincenzo (6'5'' Guard, Villanova)

- Empire - Donte DiVincenzo


18. San Antonio - Lonnie Walker, 6'5", 204lb Guard, Miami 

- Empire - Miami's Lonnie Walker


19. Atlanta (from Minnesota) - Kevin Huerter, 6'7", 190lb Guard, Maryland

- Draft Profile - 6'7 SG Kevin Huerter: A very versatile playmaker 


20. Minnesota (from Oklahoma City via Utah) - Josh Okogie, 6'4", 213lb Guard, Georgia Tech 

- Draft Profile - Josh Okogie (6'4" G, Georgia Tech)

- Draft Profile Video - Josh Okogie: 6'4" Guard, Georgia Tech

- Empire - Georgia Tech's Josh Okogie


21. Utah - Grayson Allen, 6'5", 205lb Guard, Duke


22. Chicago (from New Orleans)- Chandler Hutchison, 6'7", 197lb Guard, Boise State 

- Profile - Chandler Hutchison had been linked to Blazers even before the Combine 


23. Indiana - Aaron Holiday, 6'1", 185lb Guard, UCLA

- Draft Profile - Aaron Holiday (6'1'' PG, UCLA)

- Draft Profile Video - Aaron Holiday: It runs in the family 

-Empire - Aaron Holiday


24. Portland - Anfernee Simons, 6'4", 180lb Guard, IMG Academy 

- Draft Profile - Anfernee Simons (6'3'' Guard, IMG Academy)

- Draft Profile Video - Anfernee Simons,

- Blazers Empire - IMG Academy Anfernee Simons


25. Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland)
26. Philadelphia
27. Boston
28. Golden State
29. Brooklyn (from Toronto)
30. Atlanta (from Houston via LA Clippers)

Second Round

31. Phoenix
32. Memphis
33. Dallas
34. Atlanta
35. Orlando
36. New York (from Chicago via Oklahoma City)
37. Sacramento
38. Philadelphia (from Brooklyn)
39. Philadelphia (from New York)
40. Brooklyn (from Los Angeles Lakers via Toronto and Orlando)
41. Orlando (from Charlotte via Phoenix and Memphis)
42. Detroit
43. Denver (from LA Clippers via New York and Philadelphia)
44. Washington
45. Brooklyn (from Milwaukee)
46. Houston (from Miami via Memphis)
47. Los Angeles Lakers (from Denver via Chicago and Utah)
48. Minnesota
49. San Antonio
50. Indiana
51. New Orleans
52. Utah
53. Oklahoma City
54. Dallas (from Portland via Denver)
55. Charlotte (from Cleveland via Brooklyn and Philadelphia)
56. Philadelphia
57. Oklahoma City (from Boston)
58. Denver (from Golden State)
59. Phoenix (from Toronto)
60. Philadelphia (from Houston)

 

Watch: Neil Olshey post-draft press conference

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NBCS Northwest

Watch: Neil Olshey post-draft press conference

Watch as Neil Olshey addresses the media following the Trail Blazers 2018 NBA Draft. 

Neil Olshey Draft Press Conference

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, June 21, 2018

 

Blazers finish pre-draft process with some buzz by inviting Anfernee Simons for second workout

Blazers finish pre-draft process with some buzz by inviting Anfernee Simons for second workout

The Trail Blazers on Tuesday finished their predraft workouts, but not before creating a stir with their final group.

Highlighting an otherwise non-descript group were two 19 year olds – guard Anfernee Simons, and Bosnian wing Dzanan Musa. 

The buzz was mostly created by Simons, the 19-year-old high-flying, slick-shooting guard, who cancelled a scheduled workout with Memphis in order to accept a second workout with the Blazers on Tuesday. 

“I feel like (Portland) wanted me more,’’ Simons said in explaining why he made the late switch. 

Of the 30 prospects the Blazers looked at this month, Simons is the only player to perform a second workout. The 6-foot-4 Florida native committed to Louisville, but bypassed college last season and trained at the renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Simons (pronounced SIGH-Mons) said the Blazers join the Lakers (25thpick) and Orlando (35thpick) as the only teams to ask for a second workout. 

Meanwhile, Musa – a 6-foot-8 wing who played two seasons on the Bosnian national team with Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic – made the last of his six workouts on Tuesday. He says he can play both guard positions and small forward and possesses a level of passion that few, if any, prospects can claim.

Musa left his family at age 11 to attend a basketball academy for four years.. He later played professionally for four seasons.

“I have sacrificed almost everything for basketball,’’ Musa said. “I have that passion that I don’t think anyone has in my country or in this draft.’’

Musa has worked out for Denver (14thpick), San Antonio (18th), Utah (21), Indiana (23) and Brooklyn (29). The Blazers own the 24thpick.

But it was Simons’ return to Portland that created the most intrigue. 

He said the Blazers told him they liked him and wanted to see more of him, and judging from the limited availability of Tuesday’s workout, it appeared the Blazers wanted to see how he could handle himself against more physical guards. 

In his first workout on June 4, Simons went mostly against Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo and Duke’s Trevon Duval, both fellow teenagers who are also of slight build (Simons is 6-4, 180).

On Tuesday, Simons went mostly against Arkansas senior Jaylen Barford, who at 6-3, 202 is stronger and plays more physical than what Simons went against in the first workout. 

On one play, Barford was able to back down Simons into the key before Simons caromed off his body and out of bounds as Barford scored uncontested.

“The guard play was much better, a lot more physical,’’ Simons said. “So that was kind of a challenge.’’

Simons, who turned 19 earlier in June, said he knows his strength will be an issue, but he figures that will come with time.

“Obviously, I need to get stronger, and it’s going to take time to get stronger,’’ he said. “But I felt I held my own pretty well.’’

Well enough to earn the Blazers’ trust with the 24thpick? That will be the question come Thursday. If anything, he said the Blazers showed more interest than any other team.

“A couple of teams expressed lot of interest, but (the Blazers) are different,’’ Simons said. “They interacted with me more and tried to learn more about me off the court.’’

The Final Pre-Draft Workouts!

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NBCS NW

The Final Pre-Draft Workouts!

It's the final round of pre-draft workouts for the Trail Blazers and here's the rundown on who's at the practice facility today...

Jaylen Barford, 6'3'' Guard, Arkansas

Jacobi Boykins, 6'6'' Guard, Louisiana Tech

Brandon McCoy, 7'0'' Center, UNLV

Dzanan Musa, 6'8'' G/F, Cedevita Zagreb (Croatia)

Anfernee Simons, 6'4'' Guard, IMG Academy

Thomas Welsh, 7'0'' Center, UCLA